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American Prisons: Slavery in the 21st Century

The Clintons had slaves when Bill was governor of Arkansas. But that’s just the beginning. It recently came to light that in Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book, It Takes a Village, she wrote about how when her husband was governor of Arkansas, they had state prisoners working in and around the governor’s mansion, as was tradition–and a cost-saving measure, at that. If you want to read more about the specifics, you are welcome to do so.

Out of the Crisis

We are living in a world in crisis. But it’s not too late to save it–and ourselves. It would be difficult to summarize with any accuracy the problems we currently face, as a species. Even just narrowing down to a specific culture or country, the complexities are too numerous to faithfully generalize. But there are definitely trends we can examine, and those trends tell us a lot about where we may be headed if we don’t change course.

Donald Trump, Racism, and a Cartoon Frog

On the heels of the Clinton campaign putting out a primer on Pepe the Frog, the Southern Poverty Law Center has likewise designed the comic book frog as a hate symbol. It has been a strange year. As often happens when people not ensconced in a subculture attempt to talk about it, discussion of Pepe the Frog by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Hillary Clinton campaign lacks nuance. Perhaps it is also the case that nobody wants to expound at length about a crudely-drawn cartoon frog best known for expressing whether he feels good or bad.

The New Jim Crow, Reform, and Revolution

Yesterday, I offered up a positive review of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Now, I present some salient criticism on what the book failed to include. In the course of researching more material foryesterday’s review, I came across an intriguing critical essay by Greg Thomas, an associate professor of Black Studies at Syracuse University. He asks the crucial question: why do some like The New Jim Crow so much? At first, I wasn’t sure I would be receptive to his criticism, but as I read through I was forced to admit he makes some excellent points.

Cultural Appropriation and Fiction Writing

Author Lionel Shriver recently gave a speech wherein she complained about criticisms of “cultural appropriation.” Was she on to something, or just making lazy arguments in defense of privilege and entitlement? It’s a good idea to start with her actual speech. This post may be construed as a direct response to her points. I’ll speak to what Shriver said. I will ignore breathless speculation about our inevitable PC dystopia, and go with the specific examples she gave:

Trump and the Banality of Evil

Trump is not an example of “the banality of evil.” In fact, he’s pretty much the exact opposite. There are few turns of phrase more misunderstood than Hannah Arendt’s brief description of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. “The banality of evil” is an important concept that is nevertheless difficult to grasp fully, if the way people use it is any indication. First is that “the banality of evil” refers not to all evil, but only a specific kind of it.

Identity: Descriptive vs. Prescriptive

We live in an age dominated by identity. Progressive politics revolve around identity concepts, on the precept that all politics are identity politics. This piece is in no way a denouncement of identity politics. Instead, it’s meant as an examination and possibly clarification of certain ideas and problems I have noticed. At their best, identities are descriptive. That is, a person adopts an identity–by which I mean a specific word–because they believe it describes them well.

Progressivism, Sexual Violence, and Restorative Justice

Is the progressive movement to reform our criminal justice system and make it more humane at odds with the equally progressive desire to more aggressively punish rapists? The story that served as the impetus for bringing this topic to wider attention involves filmmaker Nate Parker, a black man who was once accused of sexual assault and later acquitted. There has been some debate over how to approach the work of someone who may be a rapist, even if a court of law didn’t hold them accountable.

Trolls and Internet Hate Culture

When TIME magazine notices that online hatred and trolling are serious problems, you know they’ve hit the mainstream. I don’t expect to break any new ground here given my past posts on this topic. However, I find it noteworthy that TIME magazine–one of the most milquetoast publications that could grace one’s coffee table–finally had a cover story about online trolling and hateful behavior. Joel Stein wrote it, who is as decent enough a person as any to have tackle it.

Activism and the End of Slavery

In the United States, a common argument surrounding the Civil War is that it was unnecessary because slavery was dying out on its own. Economically unviable in the face of industrialization, it would have gone extinct on its own. But is this true? In short: no. The notion that slavery would have eventually vanished without government intervention due to fundamental economic concerns originates from both misunderstandings and deliberate distortions of history.